As an avid yoga practitioner, I've been very aware of my body's "health" since a very young age. I think I may have been the only child alive who actually paid attention in 5th grade health and who felt guilty feeding my dog broccoli (especially when he refused to eat it, because then I would get caught). But, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t at least partially cognizant of my weight, and exercise has always been a part of my life. I used to think of health as a completely straightforward and simple equation. Eating right + staying active = healthy. And though I still believe these two parts of the puzzle are extremely integral to maintaining health, there’s an important piece that I left out, and that I believe most people leave out.
Good nourishment doesn’t just refer to the quality of food we put in our bodies. If we don’t nourish our soul, our happiness, there’s no way we can call ourselves “healthy.” It was my beautiful Kripalu teacher, Danny Arguetty, who first planted this little seed of knowledge in my head. And upon hearing him speak about this whole “complete nourishment” idea, it instantly felt like a semi-truck of understanding had run me down with a loud and crashing “DUH.”
Our society spends so much of its time worried about the next best diet or exercise machine, spending millions of dollars on ways to stay thin and in-shape, without ever really being “healthy.” We’ve created so many diet rules and different lifestyles, built from both old traditions and new sciences, each portraying their way of thought as the absolute holy grail of health, but no one seems to notice all the gray area in between.
I’m not saying these ways of diets and lifestyles are wrong, but I can’t believe that any strictly regulated list of foods that we can or can’t eat is the answer to health. I guarantee that nowhere in the alkaline, paleo, raw, Ayurvedic, only-eat-what-I-can-fit-in-this-bowl, vegan, macrobiotic, kind or otherwise diet are Athenian Room Greek fries on the OK list, but HOW GOOD ARE THEY? Seriously, there’s got to be something illegal in there, because wow.
It gets to the point where anyone can train themselves with enough dedication and commitment to live and eat solely under the rules and regulations of a diet. But is that a life? Where is the line between nourishing the body and harming the mind and/or the soul? Why do we have to value one type of health over the other? Health is what happens when we realize that by nourishing the mind, we are serving our body, and vice versa.
It’s not all about what size pants you have in your closet, but what makes you feel good. So, are those Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies or that 12-pack of beer you share with your buddies every now and then particularly the healthiest of choices? No. But, do they have to be viewed as universally unhealthy? No.
As long as we keep everything in moderation, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing something or eating something because it just feels good to do it. We’ve got to stop being so damn hard on ourselves. In a society of critics, we’ve got to learn to show ourselves a little compassion, because frankly – no one else is going to do it for us.